TOP Talk

Winning at Social Media & Trade Shows

Posted March 07, 2014 By Laureen Sanderson

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Image Credit: SXSW

We’re all fired up for this year’s dose of SXSW inspiration. Like any trade show or conference, SXSW throws attendees into a heady mix of debate, discussion and opportunities. No question, trade shows get overwhelming fast – and social media often feels like part of the problem.

Fair enough. But what you may not realize is that adding social media to your trade-show routine can actually focus your attendance, helping you extract much more from the experience than going without. Intrigued? Read on to learn how winning at social media can help you rock your next trade show.

Make your game plan in advance.

Trade show warriors know exactly why they’re attending that next event and what they intend to accomplish there. Consider social media as simply one more trackable way to measure your progress toward your goals.

Speaking of those goals: Say you’ve set a target number for lead-generation. New social media follows count towards that goal. If you’re keen to network with industry influencers, look up your top targets on Twitter and reach out to each in advance. A well-timed @mention with a useful tidbit of information can pave the way to a productive live conversation. If you’re investing in brand awareness, consider a social promotion tie-in, like Webtrends’ #didyouseethat campaign during SES.

Think social, whatever trade-show role you’re playing.

How you use social at your next conference depends on the hat(s) you wear at the show.

Are you a speaker? Add social credentials, both personal and corporate, to all your conference materials, particularly the final slide of your presentation. Talk up your conference slot in advance on social media (and make sure you use the proper event hashtag).

Manning a booth? Your trade show presence isn’t complete if your social channels aren’t easily findable on every piece of collateral (and splashed across your booth). Make sure your lead-capture process includes field(s) for social media. And consider offering a “sweetener” at the show to encourage visitors to post about your brand.

Attending a trade show? Think of social media as a fun, public way to take notes on your experience. Start following the trade show and any related hashtags; checking the hashtag is a perfect use of downtime that may yield useful findings. If you have a great meeting, that’s fodder for an update. If a speaker says something fantastically true, jot down the quote and share that as an update. Snap pictures of anything that interests you and share via Instagram.

Many shows now encourage attendees to start chatting on social media before the event itself. Visit the show’s website and social accounts to see what #hashtags are being used and get a head-start on the conversation. For SXSW, check out SXSWSocial for all of the social info you need.

Following the action from afar? Social media’s made this possible. Tune into the event hashtag and make sure you’re following anyone on your team who’s attending the event live. If your social media manager isn’t among the conference attendees, sit down with him or her in advance to find out how they’d like you to feed them updates.

Stay observant.

Trade shows give us a window into industry chatter and upcoming trends. Keep your eyes and ears open for fresh, more efficient uses of social media among your fellow attendees. For instance, you might learn it’s faster to add each other via LinkedIn mobile app versus exchanging business cards that you need to input laboriously later. Savvy trade show attendees find ways to reduce friction and maximize impact, and social media is a huge enabler of both. Finding out how influencers wield social media is not only smart, it’s a great conversation-opener with them if you need one.

Add social to your post-show follow-up routine.

Whatever post-game follow-up you do, adding social media to that routine requires only that you think of it. Input a new contact into your address book – then add them via LinkedIn and follow them on Twitter. If their company is hot on your radar, that’s worth a follow, too. Thanking someone for a meeting via email? It takes 15 seconds more to also tweet at them: “@InfluencerX, thanks for a great meeting at #TradeShow2014! Hope to talk again soon.”

You never know which social media sites your audience follows most avidly – so it’s okay if your message hits contacts on multiple fronts. If their email inbox is clogged, your tweet may stand out. Keep it short and sweet, stay helpful, and reserve any big “asks” for a live setting.

Wherever your industry meets to mingle, social media both deepens your networking and amplifies your reach. Use it wisely to get even bigger bang out of your next conference.

Laureen Sanderson

About Laureen Sanderson

"Great work. When the thinking is spot on, the execution is flawless and the right results are there, it’s a beautiful thing. The client sees the value, recognizes the contributions to the business and views the external PR team as a true extension of his own. That’s motivating, and it’s the best part of the craft."